Graptophyllum ilicifolium how to grow and propagate

If you want to grow Graptophyllum ilicifolium (aka Holly leaved fuchsia) you’ve come to the right place! Within months of propagating this plant, you’ll be rewarded with these lovely magenta coloured flowers.

Graptophyllum ilicifolium has holly shaped leaves that are quite tough in texture. She flowers a bit throughout the year but puts on a real show from winter through to early summer.

Her trumpet shaped flowers must carry a significant amount of nectar because this shrub is a popular bird attractor. The flowers carry no scent that I can detect but the native bees also love this plant.

Once pollinated the seeds form inside a hardened casing. In late spring and through to summer you can hear a pfft pfft pfft sound as the seed shells burst open ejecting the seeds. These seeds germinate readily.


Propagating Graptophyllum ilicifolium

Graptophyllum ilicifolium can be raised by cutting or fresh seed. However, the shrub that develops from both processes are two fairly different shrubs. From seed we see a shrub with smaller leaves, a smaller and slower growth habit and thorns located along the trunk and stems. The cutting raised shrubs don’t have these features.

For reasons I’ll discuss below, it’s important to cultivate this shrub by seed and not just cutting. When we raise a plant by cutting we are creating clones. Clones lack genetic diversity. This is one plant that we need to diversity.


Growth habit and pruning of Graptophyllum ilicifolium

Graptophyllum ilicifolium growth habit

Graptophyllum ilicifolium grows fairly tall. She can reach heights of between 3 and 5 metres depending upon the soil and other conditions. She has an erect growth habit.

Without tip pruning the new growth, we tend to find her getting a bit leggy. These leggy branches tend to droop when it rains. This can cause branches to snap.

On the other hand, when we fail to tip prune the shrub tends to get a bit wider. Those branches that bend over due to weight and a lack of tip pruning (and that don’t snap), tend thicken up. Those are my observations.

Depending up the pruning protocol, Graptophyllum ilicifolium is fairly narrow in width. Most of my plants, raised by cutting, are now approximately 2.5 metres tall and maybe just 1 -1.5 metres wide. I have however, been raising most of them for a tall screen and I have been tip pruning. Tip pruning began form their infancy and up until they reached almost 2 metres in height.

I have only recently been propagating by seed. Therefore my observations on seed raised Graptophyllum ilicifolium are limited.


Shade or sun for Graptophyllum ilicifolium?

Many authors suggest to grow Graptophyllum ilicifolium in the shade. Some suggest that she doesn’t like full sun at all. However, I have 6 Grapto’s growing in full sun. One of the full sun plants is from seed, all the others are from cuttings. I have another two shrubs growing in fairly shady conditions. One is growing under a native tree and the Grapto only received morning light in summer.

A second Grapto is growing at the edge of one of my edible organic gardens underneath a Jacaranda tree. She receives full sun in summer and shade all winter long.

I do also have dozens of seed and cutting raised Grapto’s in 140cm pots. These are under 30% shade cloth and otherwise in full sun.

The shaded shrubs (that are growing in the ground) appear to be growing faster than the full sun plants. However, the full sun Grapto’s are thicker and bushier. I think that the shaded plants also had more organic matter in the soil at the time of planting and on an ongoing basis.

The one under the native tree is very close and down hill of my horse manure compost so that’s likely an influencing factor.

The shaded shrubs do have less foliage compared to the full sun shrubs. They also flower less frequently and with less gusto! I’m also not relying on them for a screen, and therefore their growth habits get less of my attention.


Moist or dry soil for Graptophyllum ilicifolium?

Some authors suggest that Graptophyllum ilicifolium will only grow in moist soil. This is possibly because Commonwealth government database profiles shows her growing next to creeks. Those Grapto’s are likely to be wild and therefore seed raised.

My girls are growing well in a clay soil with little water. Certainly I originally sought to transform that clay into a healthier soil. However, most of the organic matter is likely to have been utilised by now.

They’re located on a hill with fairly well draining soil. This suggests that Graptophyllum ilicifolium may enjoy a wider diversity of habitats than is currently being reported.

I have also noticed that Graptophyllum ilicifolium transplants well. Therefore, some root disturbance does not tend to overly distress this plant.


Issues in cultivation

I have noticed a number of issues regarding these shrubs. First, they tend to react to a soil that is low in calcium. My native soil is low in nutrients generally. Soil tests reveal low calcium.

My full sun Grapto’s have had one case I identified as a calcium deficiency. Her growth tips and new leaves were the first to react with leaves curling inward and tips dying off. One dose of liquid calcium on the leaves and root zones appeared to fix this issue for now.

I do top dress their root zones on an annual basis with a compost mix including mushroom compost and rock minerals. I use the mushroom compost because my soil has a pH of 5 and the mushroom compost has a pH of about 9 so there’s a homeostasis reached there.

I have also noticed a susceptibility to a leaf fungus. Too much humidity appears to cause this. I’ve noticed that one or two leaves will turn yellow with necrotic brown spots appearing on the leaf margins. If the leaves aren’t removed from the plant, this tends to spread – like most fungal infections.

Reducing or eliminating overhead watering and removing infected leaves appears to get rid of this problem. However, this fungal reactivity to humidity makes me wonder whether the distribution along creeks is one key threatening process not yet identified by authorities.

That’s right, this plant is on the brink of extinction. Read about this issue here.

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1 Comment

Barbara · May 24, 2020 at 9:05 am

Great article thank you. Will help me decide where to plant. Will boost organic matter and use clay breaker. I was surprised at the distribution. I first fell in love with this plant at Binna Burra in the 80’s

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